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UN Human Rights chief calls on Indonesia to stop executions

GENEVA ( 27 July 2016) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today expressed alarm at reports that up to 14 people face imminent execution in Indonesia, most of them for drug-related offences. He appealed to authorities to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.

The executions will reportedly be carried out later this week at a high security prison on Nusa Kambangan island in central Java. The UN Human Rights Office expressed its deep concern about the lack of transparency throughout the process and compliance with fair trial guarantees, including the right to appeal.

“The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the Government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights,” said Zeid. “I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in South-East Asia.”

Indonesia suspended a four-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, in a decision that runs counter to an international trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Several of the individuals put to death in Indonesia since 2013 have been executed for drug-related offences.    

The High Commissioner stressed that under international law, and in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Indonesia has ratified, in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, it may only be used for “the most serious crimes” which has been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing. Drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold of “most serious crimes”. Even then, the case has to meet stringent fair trial standards, including full transparency throughout the process.

Zeid acknowledged the challenges faced by Indonesia in combatting drug-related crimes, but stressed that the country’s response must be rooted in international human rights law.

“The death penalty is not an effective deterrent relative to other forms of punishment nor does it protect people from drug abuse. The focus of drug-related crime prevention should involve strengthening the justice system and making it more effective,” he said.

“I urge the Government of Indonesia to take the important first step of instituting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and to work with us and other partners on alternative strategies to combat all crime,” the UN human rights chief said.

The UN opposes the use of capital punishment in all circumstances.